NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) 20080014347: Reaching for the APEX at Ames
Publication date 2008-01-01
Topics NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS), PROJECT MANAGEMENT, SYSTEMS ENGINEERING, LEADERSHIP, FEEDBACK, CHRONOLOGY, TIME MEASUREMENT, CONVERSATION, CRITICAL MASS, Kohut, Matthew,
The multidimensional design of the APEX program is the result of an extensive research and development effort dating back nearly a decade. "In the late 1990s and early 2000, we were pretty successful at getting new research and technology projects here at the center," Johnson says, "and we had a lack of critical mass of project managers. We were taking people who were primarily researchers and putting them in the position of managing projects." Smith and Johnson held a series of workshops across the center during 2000 and 2001 to gather feedback about how to address this issue. When they briefed the center's senior management on their findings, one of the top recommendations was to establish a project manager development program at Ames. At that point, they cast a wide net for ideas and information. "We did centerwide needs assessment, we did focus groups, we did surveys," Smith says. "We came up with a proposal for what a program would look like, tying in what we knew about the Academy of Program1 Project Leadership (now the Academy for Program/Project and Engineering Leadership, or APPEL), what we've seen at other centers, what other centers have tried. We were always checking to make sure our program mapped to APPEL. We also looked at the PMI [Project Management Institute] model, INCOSE [International Council on Systems Engineering], CMMI [Capability Maturity Model Integration], you name it." "We had a lot of conversations with the Jet Propulsion Lab and Goddard," Johnson adds. "We saw those centers as models for what Ames was aspiring to be in terms of a center for managing space flight missions." Their research confirmed what they already knew-that strong practitioner involvement would be critical to their program design process. 'XPEX is for the practitioner by the practitioner," Smith says. "They have to be a part of designing it. Otherwise there's no way we could design a program that meets their needs." At the same time that they worked at the grassroots level, they also solicited feedback from the center's senior management. "We recognized that in order for anything to succeed here, we needed to have a champion at the center management level," Johnson said. "You have to have champions, and you have to listen to what the senior managers are saying. They have their own ideas." In the case of APEX, one of those ideas fundamentally reshaped the program. "When we originally started, it was a project management development program," Johnson says, "but in our meeting with our center director, he said, 'Project management is important, but we also need to strengthen our systems engineering.' So we basically added that component to the program based on what he wanted."
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